UPDATE: Dems question bill to allow bow hunting near schools - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Dems question bill that would allow bow hunting near schools

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MADISON (WKOW) -- At a public hearing Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers questioned the wisdom of a bill that would allow people to hunt with a bow and arrow or crossbow near school grounds.

State law currently prohibits any type of hunting within 1,700 feet of a school or hospital grounds.

But Assembly Bill 8, authored by Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), would change that law to only prohibit hunting with firearms, exempting hunting with a bow and arrow or crossbow.

"Areas that do not allow hunting are places of refuge for deer in Wisconsin, resulting in expensive property damage and increased numbers of automobile accidents," said Ashlee Moore, an aide who addressed the Assembly Committee on Sporting Heritage and Natural Resources in place of Rep. Kleefisch, who was ill.

Moore cited the high number of deer-car collisions as the reason behind the bill.  She said Dane County had the highest number in the state in 2010 at 854.

"Safety has become such a priority in our schools and our communities and to come with a bill like this at this time seems just really inappropriate," responded Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie).

Rep. Hebl said he can't imagine approaching the people in his district with such an idea.

"My God, 75 to 90 percent of my constituents would ask me if I needed a mental examination," said Rep. Hebl.  "In the realm of Sandy Hook and what's going on at Newtown in terms of hunting near schools and near municipalities takes on a new element here."

"This is not a weapon that would be used in that kind of situation," said George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, which backs the bill.

Meyer also defended a provision that would prevent cities and counties from opting out of such a law.

"You would be facing possibly dissent in some of those communities, but it wouldn't be based on safety. It would be based on anti-hunting," said Meyer.

But several Democrats have a problem with that.

"It looks like the only recourse here would be going to a court of law or coming back to the state legislature and asking that this bill be repealed," said Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point).

Meyer said he believes the DNR Law Enforcement Bureau would be the most appropriate group to review specific community concerns on a case-by-case basis, and suggested that provision be included in the bill.

The Assembly Committee on Sporting Heritage and Natural Resources has yet to schedule a vote on AB 8.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- At a public hearing Wednesday morning several Democratic lawmakers questioned the wisdom of an Assembly bill that would allow bow and arrow as well as crossbow hunting near schools.

Current state law prohibits any type of hunting within 1,700 feet of a school, hospital or sanatorium.  A bill authored by Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) would change the law to say that only hunting with a firearm would be prohibited at that distance, but hunting with a bow and arrow or crossbow would have no distance restrictions. 

Rep. Kleefisch did not present the bill at the hearing in front of the Assembly Sporting Heritage and Natural Resources Committee due to illness, but his aide Ashlee Moore told the members that the bill is designed to limit the deer population in urban areas.  Moore said the Waukesha County Sheriff's Office told Rep. Kleefisch it is contributing to a high number of car-deer collisions.

Committee member Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie) called the bill inappropriate, considering the sensitive nature of safety issues at schools since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in December of 2012. 

"If I brought this bill to my community.... my God, 75 to 90 percent of my constituents would ask if I needed a mental examination," said Rep. Hebl.

But George Meyer of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation spoke in favor of the bill, saying there are very few public safety concerns with bow hunting.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann was at today's public hearing and will have live reports in 27 News at 5 and 6.

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